The CBO tells Republicans what they don’t want to hear

THE CBO TELLS REPUBLICANS WHAT THEY DON’T WANT TO HEAR…. Almost exactly two years ago, David Brooks had some advice for the new White House team. President Obama, the columnist said, is “going to have to prove the hard way that he meant what he said about being pragmatic and evidence-based. That means he won’t sweep a C.B.O. study under the rug simply because the findings are inconvenient.”

The concerns were reasonable, but directed at the wrong side of the aisle. The Obama White House hasn’t blown off inconvenient CBO scores; Republicans have.

This has been ongoing for a while — the GOP just loves the Congressional Budget Office, just so long as the party likes what it’s hearing. On the other hand, Republicans consider the CBO unreliable and worthless when its information runs counter to their agenda.

With that in mind, Republicans will be none too pleased to hear from CBO Director Doug Elmendorf today, who explains that repealing the Affordable Care Act “would increase budget deficits” by quite a bit. (via Matt Finkelstein)

As a result of changes in direct spending and revenues, CBO expects that enacting H.R. 2 would probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012-2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion (on the basis of the original estimate), plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes that CBO and JCT will include in the forthcoming estimate. Adding two more years (through 2021) brings the projected increase in deficits to something in the vicinity of $230 billion, plus or minus the effects of technical and economic changes.

Making matters slightly worse, the CBO also found that the House Republicans’ repeal bill, if it became law, would also leave 32 million Americans without health insurance by the end of the decade and make coverage more expensive for individuals.

As Jonathan Cohn added, “So there you have it: According to one of our most reliable and nonpartisan authorities, repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean higher deficits plus insurance that is less comprehensive, less available, and in many cases more expensive. ”

This, of course, is the top priority of congressional Republicans, who claim to consider fiscal responsibility paramount.

In June 2009, the Congressional Budget Office scored an incomplete Democratic health care proposal, issuing an unhelpful analysis with little practical value. At the time, Eric Cantor (R-Va.) not only accepted the CBO numbers as gospel, but called the analysis “the turning point in the healthcare debate.” (Dems crafted a more complete bill, and soon received a better score.)

You see, in his mind, a bad CBO score on a health care bill should necessarily kill the legislation.

Funny, I don’t imagine Cantor will think that way today.